Introduction To The Bench Press
The bench press is the most popular weight training exercise in the world, everyone from powerlifters to weekend gym warriors are including bench presses in their program.
Problem is that most people do it wrong. It looks like a simple exercise where you comfortably lie down, lift the barbell off the rack and start pumping your chest, but there’s more to benching than this.
Many who use the lift for aesthetic purposes, may think that the bench press is just a chest exercise, and consequently include it on their ‘chest day’, however this is wrong way of looking at it, as the bench press is one of the big 3 compound movements (along with deadlift and squat), and is a full body compound movement.
That wrong approach to bench pressing is also the reason why most people hit a plateu very quickly and are stuck around same bench press numbers for many months or even years. With such loss of power and increased injury risk, you have to re-think bench press and start looking at human anatomy more closely.
The bench press is a compound full body movement where you engage pecs, delts, triceps, legs, and core. Using the bench as a full body movement is the only way to achieve greatest strength leverage and minimal injury risk.
The current bench press record is 1075lbs (488kg) by Ryan Kennely at 308 pound (140kg) of weight. This kind of numbers are not possible to achieve by just comfortably laying on the bench and pumping the weight, proper technique that utilizes the entire body is the key.
With poor setup, you are likely to struggle through the entire movement and significantly increase risk of injury and loss of power.
Proper setup is the fastest way to increase your numbers and eliminate any injury risk you might have while benching (most common being shoulder problems).
The setup is focused around getting you stable and tight on the bench, where your back, glutes and feet will have solid point of contact.
Muscles involved in the bench press:
Gear and Support Accessories
Wrist wraps – keep the joints tight, increases stabilisation and helps handle heavier loads. Use it if you want on last heaviest sets.
Chalk – if you tend to get sweaty hands, this will strengthen grip and get a better feel for the weight.
Belt – used only on very heavy weights, you probably won’t need it. As we’re aiming for getting lean, which prevents you from getting into heavy mass weights.
Bench shirt – for pro powerlifters only, best powerlifters can add 300 pounds (140kg) to their bench with the bench shirt
How To Bench Press
Step #1 – The Setup
Eyes below bar – many guys have their heads too far from the bar, which increases travel distance of arms during unracking process and causes loss of upper back tightness.
Tense your entire upper body – upper body contraction is crucial.
no more lying comfortable on the bench like its a bed, you must utilize the bench surface to your advantage.
Squeeze your back by taking shoulders back and down.
Arch your tailbone so you can place the tension of upper back on bench.
There are two reasons for having an arched tight upper body:
1. It creates stable position which is crucial.
2. It minimizes range of motion [the shorter your travel distance the more weight you can lift]
Assume wide, flat foot placement – Placing your feet wide gives more leverage and strength drive when ascending. Have your legs spread as wide as possible while keeping them flat and having your glutes still touching the bench. Leg drive is crucial during ascend especially on higher weights.
Lock your grip – Grip with thumb around bar. Never use a thumb less grip on the bench (also known as suicide grip) Width of grip is just outside shoulders – too wide and you will use shoulders too much, too narrow and it will become a tricep extension exercise. Once you lock your grip, you don’t let go of it, you don’t play around with it during a set, if something is wrong, rack the bar back, and start a new set. Any playing with weights to correct grip will cause you to lose the stability and upper back tension which makes your bench less effective.
Step #2: Unrack
Unracking is something that most of people do wrong. It seems like an innocent move, but if you do it incorrectly, it can lead losing all the tension, tightness and stability you had created in your upper body.
Drag the bar out – don’t push it with your arms up (like shrugging) this gets you lose the tension. The J-hooks should have little depth to allow you easily drag bar out, if you can’t, use a partner that will unrack the bar for you.
Position bar directly over sternum – don’t position it too high (above neck for example), never rush to start lowering the bar. Let the bar stabilize for 2 seconds, feel the tension in your upper back, and go for it!
Step #3: Descend
Tuck elbows in – Not tucking your elbows in will result in wrecking your shoulders eventually. The pain, irritation and inflammation will come up pretty quickly. Simply by tucking your elbows, the entire pressure is taken off and your shoulders will thank you. Note: if you aim for the sternum with your bar, your elbows should naturally tuck in, but watch it for your first few workouts just in case.
Touch sternum – (located below lower chest). Your shoulders will thank you, and your bench press strength will go up quickly.
Touch and go – don’t fully stop. Touch and go, this will train your stretch reflex also. Fully stopping is much harder and riskier without a spotter.
Step #4: Ascend
Drive up with your legs – The ascent is where the bench press becomes a full body movement, the squeezing of your glutes and pushing with your feet against the floor will increase your strength instantly. If you learn to utilize leg drive on bench press, your numbers will go up quickly. Your legs are much bigger muscles than delts, pecs and triceps and you must utilize them in the bench press unless you want to lift the same numbers forever…
Push yourself into the bench Instead of pushing the bar up, push yourself away from the bar into the bench. You will be tighter, you will incorporate legs, your technique will be better and you’re going to bench more..
Extra Tips On Bench Pressing
Staying safe without a spotter – optimally you should use a spotter, if you don’t have one, there are a few tricks that will minimize injury. 1. Don’t do reps to failure, if you feel you barely finished the last rep, don’t go for another rep without a spotter.
2. If you’re stuck, simply do the roll of shame.
Roll of shame – when you’re stuck and can’t lift the bar back to the rack, and there is no spotter, stay calm. All you do is place the bar on yourself and quickly roll it down to your hips while you get into a sitting position. From there you just take of the bar off of you… It’s an easy trick to do even at 400 pounds. So don’t worry about ‘Killing Yourself’ without a spotter.
Progress is not linear – you will have good days and bad days (where you won’t be able to make progress), don’t worry about it, just make sure you maintain proper form and technique, and increasing your numbers is guaranteed as you improve and master your technique with every workout.
Mindset – mindest can be more important than anything when it comes to beating your personal records. You must have solid state of mind that you’re going to beat your numbers, forget about everything that might be in your life. It’s now you vs the weight. Wrong mindest most times results in average performance. Never think of failure, and never be intimidated by a weight, this is a surfire way to FAIL.
Never lift your butt – this puts you in great injury risk. Many people do it when weights are heavy and they forget to engage legs and push themselves from the bar (instead of pushing bar up) you want your butt to always be in touch with the bench.
Maintain wrists straight and in line with forearms Many people tend to bend their wrists and this just eliminates bench press effect on chest and becomes more of a tricep extension exercise. If you have trouble with it on higher weights, use wrist bands. Don’t depend on wrist bands too much as this will weaken your wrists, you want to naturally strengthen them overtime.
Bench press and man boobs – bench press will help to shape your chest muscles, but it won’t help you to get rid of man boobs, only your diet will. You want to get lean and cut down to single digit body fat using intermittent fasting.
Bench Press Checklist
- Eyes below bar
- Tense upper body and lock it with arch
- Wide, flat foot position
- Lock grip
- Drag bar out
- Position directly over sternum and let bar stabilize
- Touch sternum (below lower chest)
- Tuck elbows in
- Touch and go
- Drive up with legs
- Push yourself into the bench
A Final Note
The journey to achieving a ripped Hollywood body is fairly fun and pretty much straight forward when combining the protocols intermittent fasting and strength training.
Intermittent fasting is a fantastic diet protocol that allows you to enter a prolonged calorie deficit without any hungers, mental challenges or strict rules.
I was able to recharge every weekend with my favorite cheat foods, and now after reaching my goal the maintenance is much more simple. You just can’t ignore the benefits of having a lean and ripped physique.
Great energy, feel comfortable in clothes, look great, better skin, more confidence, more sex appeal, more attention, more respect and the list goes on…
This road is worth taking, we only live once after all, do you want to look back and regret for not making the progress? You will not get a feeling of self-accomplishment from being an average couch potato that spends time watching various TV series all day long, believe me, I’ve done that.
I really hope youve got something out of my experience.
Best of luck for getting lean ripped — I really hope it goes without a glitch.